This weekend I’ve been walking lots. More than I’ve done in months in fact.
I walk a little every day anyway, then from time to time go on longer excursions. Walking somehow shakes stuff out, helps to realign my thoughts into some slightly more comprehensible order, gives me insights that I otherwise seem blind to.
Walking is the closest experience I have to mediation.
I’ve tried conventional meditation, well dabbled with it more accurately, over the years. But it’s never quite worked, I haven’t experienced what I hoped I might. My best outcome has been falling asleep! At worst I end up just aching and fidgeting.
And so walking (and very occasionally, in a different way, dancing) is my meditation.
I put this effect down to two elements.
First, the physical action of walking, of putting one foot after the other. You soon build to a comfortable cadence, and this rhythm, without being obvious or intrusive, somehow gently lubricates all the sticky thinking that often won’t shift much and just goes round and round when you’re just sitting in one place for example.
You also experience that audible rhythm, whether it’s the sound of your feet hitting tarmac, loosening stones or gravel, brushing through grass, or squelching in wet mud, it’s a steady metronomic beat to work with. It can hypnotise and enchant. Most of all it just provides that steady repetitive backdrop that allows your thoughts to realign.
The second element is you’re travelling, you’re physically taking yourself from one place to another. Even if it’s just round the block, you’re still moving along. This going from one destination to another, from somewhere you’ve been, to somewhere you haven’t quite yet arrived at.
Again this inspires thinking to move along too. Your thoughts start at one place, then evolve to another, go from some place you’ve been (stuck) to somewhere you haven’t quite yet arrived at.
You’re aware of passing scenery, whether it’s cars and buildings, or trees and animals, and you feel that sense that you’re getting somewhere, you’re making progress.
[side note: I get a similar sort of feeling on trains, I find them very relaxing, and could happily sit on trains for hours on end just looking out the window and overhearing random snippets of conversation. But that’s another story…]
Some years ago, I had a new series of coaching courses I was trying to work out. No end of drawing and mind maps and writing was getting me anywhere, the paper just didn’t seem big enough to collate all the ideas.
It was midsummer, very warm, and I was wearing just flip flops. The flip-flop sound of my, er, flip flops, gave me that steady rhythm to start unlocking my thoughts.
I walked most of the length of the trail, and back, over nine miles. Yes, in flip flops. Foolish I know, and I couldn’t walk properly for a few days after!
But the insights and clarity in my thoughts I experienced from just steadily walking was worth it.
Everything just fell into place in my mind, and when I got back I wrote it out straight off.
I couldn’t have figured it out any other way.
I plan to get back to walking more. Aside from being my meditation, obviously the fresh air and exercise are also good for my health in other ways too.
Are you a lover of walking? Does it help you think more clearly too?
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